Important: a note about the 'nonce' threads and naming living individuals

Discussion in 'UK politics, current affairs and news' started by editor, Oct 12, 2012.

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  1. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I think I need to explain the difficulties that some of these posts are causing.

    When you suggest, imply or infer that some living person is a nonce/kiddy-fiddler/keen indulger in illegal sexual acts/squirrel shafter it puts the site at serious risk.

    Unless you can support this claim with credibly-sourced links with references to actual successful prosecutions (NOT just allegations or rumours), there's a chance I'll get a letter from a very expensive lawyer saying that the post is defamatory.

    The letter will then include any one of the following demands:

    (a) remove the post instantly
    (b) remove the post instantly and publish a retraction and apology
    (c) remove the post instantly and publish a retraction and post an apology on the front page of the site
    (d) remove the post instantly and publish a retraction and post an apology on the front page of the site and pay all legal fees, which may run into thousands of pounds
    (e) remove the post instantly and publish a retraction and post an apology on the front page of the site and pay all legal fees, which may run into thousands of pounds - as well as pay substantial damages based on the general widespread appeal and readership of the site

    (I have received demands for all of the above over the years, btw)

    It doesn't matter if you think it's 'harmless fun' or any possible offence is being 'taken out of context'.

    All that matters is that if a hotshot lawyer thinks he can build a defamation case - no matter how far fetched it may seem to you - then there's a chance that they will.

    And they'd probably win too because the defamation laws are so fucked up in the UK.

    Please think about that before you post and understand that if mods do remove posts it's not because they're "spineless c*nts" or "censoring debate" - it's because we're doing our very best to keep the site open for all.
  2. yardbird

    yardbird Understands love.

    Thanks Ed.
  3. mrs quoad

    mrs quoad Well-Known Member

    I'd heartily recommend locking it, then! There's wnough open threads for the chat to continue elsewhere.

    Leave this open, and by 3am on Sat it'll be heading to the bin regardless.
  4. Just a thought but another site have been taken down not for noncery allegations but still defamatory they were much smaller than here and didn't discuss the matter as robustly.
    I think you know who I mean but I won't mention them by name.
    That site now refer to the organisation with letters starring out the middle (a bit like the cunt threads on here) maybe an idea??
  5. StoneRoad

    StoneRoad heckling from the back!

    Thanks, ed, for making the point about the defamation risks of such posts to the forum .....
  6. FridgeMagnet

    FridgeMagnet Administrator

    I'd like to add that we find it incredibly frustrating that the law allows for this, and behind the scenes, we do ignore a lot of the legal threats we get when they're obviously entirely spurious (and, this being the internet, that's a fair-sized category). Defamation of a named (or even just clearly indicated) rich individual is a different matter though.
    muscovyduck, Mrs Magpie and Manter like this.
  7. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    One of the heaviest threats I ever received was over a piece I wrote about a building. The piece was well researched and contained links to credible articles from international publishers. The multi millionaire previous owner decided he wanted to airbrush out his rather dubious involvement with the building.

    Despite my absolute confidence that what I'd written was completely correct, I had to take the article down and post a grovelling apology because there was no way I could take on this lot.

    Such are the libel laws of the land. It's not about the truth. It's about how much money you've got.
  8. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    This thread will stay but any twatty posts may have to be removed.
  9. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    That won't protect them under the law if sufficient people can work out who they're referring to.
  10. Mrs Magpie

    Mrs Magpie On a bit of break...

    I also would add to what editor and fridge magnet have already said is that it can be wearing dealing with day-to-day stuff (checking registrations, cleaning up the mess that spammers leave, moving threads etc etc) but sometimes the kind of abuse we get for modding decisions is really just not on. If someone spoke to a shopworker, nurse, bus driver or whatever in the aggressive way that is sometimes hurled in our direction, most people here would be appalled. Just because we aren't paid for doing this, it doesn't mean our work is of no value and that it's OK to insult us as if we are valueless.

    I've been on a forum where posters get banned for mild swearing and where the moderators delete and ban for the tiniest thing. I think this is a tolerant board and most posters here are lovely. However some posters are conspicuously and astonishingly selfish with somewhat shoddy character traits revealed as a result.
  11. Maybe that's why that board is all but dead now and gone to other parts of internet.
    Odd thing is the litigants are widely slagged off here but the offending post on there was oddly obscure and buried quite well
    Undoubtedly this site gets more traffic.
    twentythreedom likes this.
  12. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I've had all sorts of unexpected legal threats from long dormant posts. Sometimes it's really hard to work out what on earth they're complaining about.
  13. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    This is an example of the sort of post I'll be deleting later. (see post #8 for clarification)
    Maltin and Lock&Light like this.
  14. Mrs Magpie

    Mrs Magpie On a bit of break...

    I think it's sometimes a weird meld of vanity googling and litigiousness. Or just trying it on.
  15. Mrs Magpie

    Mrs Magpie On a bit of break...

    Either way, this site does not have the time or money to get entangled legally.
  16. Bahnhof Strasse

    Bahnhof Strasse Free the Sepsis Six!

    Back in the 1980's M*** *******e used to 'bang the drum', at the time we thought there was nothing we could do, but in these 'post Phil Collins days' , we now know that we should have said 'something' :(
    Corax likes this.
  17. Yossarian

    Yossarian free shrugs

    Are we still allowed to suggest, imply, or infer that living people were guilty of criminal wrongdoing in things like the Hillsborough cover-up or the Iraq war?
    ska invita likes this.
  18. Bahnhof Strasse

    Bahnhof Strasse Free the Sepsis Six!

    Yes, cos they are facts, with proof in the public domain.
  19. Yossarian

    Yossarian free shrugs

    Got any "credibly-sourced links with references to actual successful prosecutions?"
  20. editor

    editor Taffus Maximus

    I think I've laid out the framework of how we are compelled to stay within the law fairly comprehensively, and I'm sure you're sensible enough to work out what is acceptable.
  21. free spirit

    free spirit more tea vicar?

    Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead NPJ said in Albert Cheng v Tse Wai Chun (2000) 3 HKCFAR 339 at p 360I to 361D

    Branson v Bower [2002] QB 737, at p 748, para 29, Judge Eady

    I understand where you're coming from here, but please be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, as there have been other posts recently from a poster on here specifically naming a celebrity relating to something she had directly experienced, which then led to others finding that thread and relating similar experiences about the same celebrity.

    Something does not have to have been proven in court to be judged as being fair comment, it just needs to be true, or for the person making the statement to have reasonably believed it to have been true (and presumably for the site involved to also have reasonably believed it to be true).

    Bottom line here, is that if such allegations are true, then the person named is unlikely to actually take court action as it would involve them perjuring themselves, and risking criminal prosecution if they failed to convince the court they hadn't done what they'd been accused of. If only a small percentage of rapes and sexual assaults ends up in criminal prosecution, then having that as the bar on when someone's allowed to comment, means that only a tiny percentage of those who know from first or second hand experience about dodgy goings on from famous people would be able to post anything about this.... essentially perpetuating the situation that enabled Saville to get away with his activities for an entire lifetime.

    That said, there's probably been a fair few comments that wouldn't stand up to the fair comment defence as well, so there obviously is the question of where to set the bar, but IMO only allowing comments based on actual guilty verdicts is setting the bar too high (though I'd certainly support you if you wanted to temporarily remove a post while checking the supporting evidence with the poster etc).
    punchdrunkme likes this.
  22. FridgeMagnet

    FridgeMagnet Administrator

    The thing is that _any_ court action kills the site. We can't do court action. They know that. We don't have the money to go there in the first place. It doesn't matter if we'd win.
    Casually Red, equationgirl and editor like this.
  23. Johnny Canuck3

    Johnny Canuck3 Well-Known Member

    If an allegation is made that a pubic figure is engaging in these acts, and the allegation is without foundation in fact, then they should win.
    Maltin likes this.
  24. free spirit

    free spirit more tea vicar?

    This looks to be a reasonable legal guide into this stuff specifically for forum owners and similar

    you may of course have already read it, but in case you haven't...
  25. free spirit

    free spirit more tea vicar?

    What if the site were able to set up a legal defence fund, or a list of posters who pledge to support the site financially if legal action were necessary to defend it from malicious prosecution in a situation like this?

    At a time when the entire country is kicking off about how someone this famous could have got away with a trail of abuse over a period of decades, it just seems wrong for the response to be to batten down the hatches and prevent all further speculation or comments about anyone else who anyone knows or suspects to have been involved in similar situations.

    This is the sort of stuff the internet is supposed to be able to stop people being able to keep covered up, but it seems the reverse is true, and those with the clout to get lawyered up can carry on with inpunity as long as they never get successfully prosecuted.
    punchdrunkme and salem like this.
  26. free spirit

    free spirit more tea vicar?

    true, but what if the allegation is based on fact, but just hasn't actually resulted in a successful prosecution - as is the case with Jimmy Saville.
    Meltingpot and frogwoman like this.
  27. Johnny Canuck3

    Johnny Canuck3 Well-Known Member

    Jimmy Savile is dead.
    debsnz and Maltin like this.
  28. free spirit

    free spirit more tea vicar?

    Should we have to wait until people are dead before their victims, or others who're directly aware of the situation are allowed to speak out publicly in the absense of a successful prosecution?

    That would actually seem to be what was actually the situation with Jimmy Saville, but surely the point now is to look at ways to ensure that's not the case in the future, and similar situations can't just be kept brushed under the carpet for fear of legal action by the rich and powerful.
    muscovyduck, debsnz and frogwoman like this.
  29. FridgeMagnet

    FridgeMagnet Administrator

    It would take a vast amount of user contribution to put together a legal team which could take care of court cases independently - and the ed is the person who'd be targeted here.

    Seriously, I am exceptionally unhappy with all of this. I was a teenage cyberpunk (ahem), I'm an EFF member, all that sort of thing, and I really really don't want the current setup to be true, where people with money can just bully sites to take shit down, and there is no recourse via the courts because that would take the site owners out of work for lengths of time that they can't afford either monetarily or in terms of stress and disruption - and even if they fight they'll likely lose regardless of the strength of the case. But when it comes to identifiable targets like Urban, it _is_ true; the chilling effects work.

    There are lots of ways of getting potentially "defamatory" information out via other networks which are harder to track and interfere with. I and others here are certainly very happy to talk about those. There is also a very large number of things that a site like Urban can and does do. It's not like this is crippling. It's just that there are certain channels that are best for certain information.
  30. free spirit

    free spirit more tea vicar?

    I've sent you a pm.
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